May 18, 2023 - Economy

The New York Times launches subscriber-only podcast app NYT Audio

The New York Times

The New York Times this week unveiled a new podcast and audio story app that's available only to subscribers who pay for its core news product.

Why it matters: Making the app a subscriber-only benefit will "drive more engagement and retention," said Times' chief product officer Alex Hardiman.

  • NYT Audio builds on other efforts by The Times to give subscribers more exclusive content, Hardiman noted. For example, the company started offering subscriber-only newsletters in 2021.

Details: The app, which has been in beta testing for 18 months, will be available only to subscribers of The Times' core news product on iOS.

  • While users are able to follow certain shows, podcasts or publishers, the app is intentionally editorially-curated to give users a premium experience.

Be smart: Times podcasts will still be available outside of NYT Audio. "That remains an important part of our strategy," said Stephanie Preiss, senior vice president and general manager of TV and audio at The Times.

  • Keeping podcasts widely available could help The Times build an audience that it can use to funnel heavy listeners into a subscription and boost its ads business, she explained.
  • Still, the reason for creating a differentiated app is to help audio enthusiasts create a daily habit with The Times' journalism and its products directly.
  • "We believe that listening is a different mode from reading and that people tend to either be primarily in one or primarily in the other," Preiss said.

How it works: The app's home screen features several sections that offer users a mix of content, based on their daily routines. The editorial within the app is led by Paula Szuchman, director of audio at The Times.

  • At the top, users can access a new, short-form daily news podcast, called The Headlines, that features up-to-date reporting on major stories of the day that aren't featured in The Times' daily flagship show, The Daily.
  • Underneath The Headlines is a player module for The Daily, followed by a section called Reporter Reads that features brief audio news reports, receipts and other reporter-led insights.
  • The home screen also features long-form reads from The Times and other publishers. That functionality comes from Audm — an app The Times acquired in 2020. With the NYT Audio app launch, The Times will sunset Audm as a standalone app.
  • The app also includes a selection of podcast and audio content from The Athletic, the subscription sports site The Times acquired in 2022, and content from This American Life, a show from the podcast company Serial that The Times acquired in 2020.

Catch up quick: The Times' podcast business has boomed since it first launched The Daily in 2017.

  • To date, The Daily has been downloaded more than 3 billion times. The Times is now the fourth biggest publisher in audio, according to Podtrac, despite producing far fewer shows than leading publishers.
  • Part of the impetus for building out a standalone app was to give its journalists more opportunities to participate in audio reporting.
  • "There's only one reporter a day that can go on The Daily. We have 1,700 journalists here," said deputy managing editor Sam Dolnick.

The big picture: A standalone app for audio enthusiasts represents an evolution in The Times' business model to focus on bundling niche subscription products that can super-serve enthusiasts with general news.

  • For example, a casual news reader may not read every foreign policy dispatch, but they might use recipes on the NYT Cooking app, or play crosswords on the NYT Games app, daily.
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